Entertainment » Theatre

Finding Neverland

by Erin Dahlgren
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jun 15, 2017
Finding Neverland

Having previously only seen the delightful motion picture on which this musical is based, my expectations of the touring production of "Finding Neverland" were optimistic but fortunately not overly expectant.

With music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy and a book by James Graham, "Finding Neverland" first opened on Broadway in March 2015, telling the story of famed "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie as he struggles with writers block before befriending four brothers and their widowed mother Sylvia in Kensington Gardens, London in 1903. The boys allow Barrie's imagination to come to life once more and inspire the characters in the well-loved Peter Pan story.

Like the 2004 film, the musical production captivatingly juxtaposed fantasy with stark reality and created a world within a world where fairies and magic intermingled with the stiff High Society of London. The elegant set design was more suggestive than realistic, leaving much to the imagination as I'm sure was the intention, and a clear theme involving time and clocks developed as each new set change featured Big Ben style clocks, reminding us that time marches ever forward in the life of J.M. Barrie, despite the characters he writes being able to reverse time so as to never grow old.

The costumes, designed by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, were period perfection, with special mention going to the glittering green gown worn by Mrs. du Maurier (played by the fabulous Karen Murphy), which was so vivid and creative that it was hard to miss that she was to become the inspiration behind the tick-tocking crocodile.

The cast was sufficiently talented, and although there were a few standouts, the young boys that played brothers Peter (Ben Krieger), Jack (Mitchell Wray), George (Finn Faulconer) and Michael (Jordan Cole) were the most exceptional, earning the largest applause of the night with their performance of "We're All Made Of Stars" in the second act.

Hook, played by Rory Donovan (also wittily playing the role of Charles Frohman the Producer) was a charismatic breath of fresh air when he finally appeared in the number "Hook" at the end of Act One, bringing us into the Act One Finale, "Stronger, Part 2" which was the first time the stage truly came to life and we experienced the thrills and excitement reminiscent of the original Peter Pan story. While pirates climbed the rigging and sails billowed in the wind, the show was lifted to new heights as we were brought to the climactic close of the first act.

The lead role of J.M Barrie, performed by Will Ray, was a demanding one, and Ray evidently had the stamina to play the part. His voice was technically sound and although lacking any real power was easy to listen to, and his playfulness on stage was genuine and enthusiastic.

The relationship between Barrie and Sylvia, played by Christine Dwyer was not completely devoid of chemistry, but at the same time failed to ignite any real sense of passion and while their voices worked beautifully together in the duet "Neverland," the romantic number "What You Mean To Me" felt a tad lukewarm despite the lovely shadow choreography.

Dwyer as Sylvia was outstanding in the way that she captured the complexities of a mother putting aside her own needs to prioritize those of her children, and the raw emotions bubbling beneath her positive, stoic fa├žade were evident through every line and note that she sang. Dwyer's voice was strong in her solo "All That Matters," although despite being one of the most versatile vocalists in the Musical Theater scene, I felt the songs in "Finding Neverland" did not give her the opportunity to suitably showcase her talent.

The challenges of adapting a film into a stage production are many, including trying to cut plotlines and characters in order to fit it into the prescribed time frame and make it more cohesive and accessible to a live audience. While much of the magic and imagination was preserved and there were moments of brilliant ingenuity in set design, choreography, and special effects, the production as a whole sometimes lacked the momentum and the story often felt fractured. In addition, the book was occasionally overly sentimental, playing on the audiences' emotions to the point where it became somewhat gratuitous. Having said that,

"Finding Neverland" is a predominantly a lighthearted musical, which anyone with an inner child and a love for the original Peter Pan story can relate to and enjoy, and is absolutely worth seeing for the incredible moment between J.M.Barrie and Peter in the number "When Your Feet Don't Touch The Ground."

Or, failing that, seeing a live dog on stage is sure to win over the most hardened pirate heart.

"Finding Neverland" runs through June 25 at the Au-Rene Theater at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Southwest 5th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. For information or tickets, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.browardcenter.org or findingneverlandthemusical.com

Having spent her childhood in Australia pretending to be Olivia Newton-John in Grease, it was inevitable that Erin would eventually run away from home and end up working in Entertainment. After completing studies at the Victorian College of the Arts in Musical Theater, Erin enjoyed working in Film, Television and Theater in London's West End before relocating to South Florida where she juggles motherhood, working in Real Estate, pregnancy hormones and being a trophy wife.


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